Marc Crehuet’s film THE ONE-EYED KING (EL REÍ BORNI), which screened during Camera Catalonia at Cambridge FF, is his own adaptation for cinema, and with the same cast, of a stage-play that began being seen in a small studio before becoming known and moving to larger theatres. With a declaration of independence in Catalunya (Catalonia), it very relevantly treats at the personal level (kept to the forces of the play, there are four principals) of the forces that inspire or restrain change, and why we want what we support. Anthony Davis chatted with Marc about the film.
AJD: What I like about your film is that although it’s quite theatrical, it feels like a film. What’s your connection with theatre and film – have you always written for both?
MC: I’ve written for film – this is the first movie I’ve made – and I’ve written theatre plays before.
AJD: Have you directed other people’s screenplays?
AJD: So you’re adapting your own stage play for the first time?
MC: Yes. What happened is that the play was a success in Spain. We were two years touring, the actors
AJD: And you were saying the other day that it’s the same cast as in the film.
MC: Yes. A Catalan comedy director wanted to meet me, and asked me if I had the idea of turning this into a movie. I said “yes, it’s a good idea”.
AJD: Is he a producer?
MC: No. He wanted to do it himself but he first asked politely if I wanted to do it.
AJD: How did you find that? It’s around 70 minutes long, which is a perfect length.
MC: He put me in touch with a producer that was interested in making the film, but the producer was asking me to open the story, and find new locations and new characters, and do it more – you know, when you think of adapting a theatre play, the first idea is to go to open spaces and everything, right? LIke exteriors, not only interiors. The original story I wrote for the theatre happens in one interior space. I tried to open it and I didn’t like the result.
While shooting, I saw the rushes of an interior sequence and it was too large to happen there for me. I need to go outside – I need to break this scene into small parts. I decided I could do that. The first intention was to start the scene in the lift but I decided I can go out because they get to this kind of hell but first they can be outside.
There’s also the moment of the protest – showing the demonstration, the violence, was an idea the producer had. And I wanted to try it. But I didn’t like the result – it lost this atmosphere and sense of claustrophobia that I wanted to keep in the movie. Because in the first representation, when I first staged the play we did it in a very tiny venue in Barcelona, a venue for 40 people. A little underground place and there we had this sense of claustrophobia that I wanted to maintain for the movie.
AJD: People will watch films and not necessarily understand about filmmaking. I found some shots of the set – it’s clear it’s not a real apartment but it very authentically creates a sense of where they might live.
MC: Yes, that was actually one of the decisions when I thought about adapting it. I kept the words mostly intact, the dialogue, but what I concentrated on was these kind of things. The other director and I discussed whether to use a natural location or reconstruct it. And we decided to construct it because we wanted the house to tell the audience something about these people. It was like a metaphor, like a dollhouse – an artificial place.
AJD: Were you thinking about Ibsen?
MC: I was more thinking about Eraserhead!
AJD: The awful place where he goes for dinner?
MC: Yes! [laughs] The first idea was to make it in black and white, but the DOP told me “Dont’ be mad – it’s too difficult”. He was right. He gave me these colours that would *seem* like black and white, in a way. He comes from horror movies, that’s the beginning of his career. I like to put this visual aspect into comedy – I like the combination.
AJD: What intrigued me was the dinner scene, where the mirror on the wall acts as an eye, showing us elements of the dining table that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.
MC: Yes. The “eye” was an idea I wanted to play with more, but I decided it was too obvious. I tried having the actors look straight to camera, but it was too much. An hour before shooting, I made the decision to have just one character look straight into the camera – although I was worried at first that it wouldn’t work in cinema. When I go to festival screenings, you always feel a tension in the audience at the end, at that particular moment.
AJD: Nacho, the “One-Eyed Man”, is cleverer than the rest of the characters, but he’s no genius! He’s a nice character. I like the actor – I’ve seen him in other films. He cringes on ourbehalf in the awkward scenes, and reacts for us. And yet at other times he just doesn’t know what to think or say.
MC: I love all the actors. Mickey pretends to have a problem with pronunciation – I don’t know if you noticed that. I wanted to make the character more vulnerable.
AJD: Do you feel inspired to direct again?
MC: I do have a new script and recently found a producer crazy enough to find money to do it! But it’s not – I needed to change the subject. It’s not about politics – it’s more like an indie comedy. It’s different. It’s not a play, it’s a new script.
MC: In the theatre it was interesting to see the audience reactions. Depending on the day, they would laugh a lot, or they would be very serious. When they were serious, I was worried and the actors were worried something was wrong. But it wasn’t that – it was that they were more in a political dimension. But they liked it. Especially in this small venue we sometimes felt people didn’t know if it was proper to laugh or not, because they had the other spectators.
AJD: You need permission to laugh! I like that about the script – that it’s not taking itself too seriously. Has humour always been an element in what you do?
MC: Before that, I did a sitcom called “Pop Ràpid” which is kind of like “The Young Ones” – that was my main reference. Humour has always been a way for me to distance from myself. When I try to write drama, I don’t quite believe what I’m writing!
Images © Jean-Luc Benazet 2017